By Sean Addis
The Mattamy Athletic Centre, formerly the iconic Maple Leaf Gardens, has witnessed many significant moments in sports history. On Friday, the MAC will be the setting for another historic night. This time though, history won’t be made on the ice, during the game between the Windsor Lancers and the Ryerson Rams women’s hockey teams. It will be made in the Sportsnet RTA Production Centre.
A crew of 23 women, consisting of four crew leads and 19 volunteers, will direct, produce and present the entire game’s coverage for the Ryerson Rams Network.
It’s being dubbed, “The Take-Over,” and according to its organizers, it’s the first time in North American sports broadcast history that the entire production of a telecast will be completed by an all-female team.
The event was initiated by two fourth-year RTA media production students and Ryerson Rams Network executives, Leandra Vermeulen and Erin Graham. Both worked in sports production last summer during the PanAm and Para PanAm games in Toronto, and both noticed the sizeable gender gap on remote live sport productions.
“I was extremely fortunate to be part of the broadcast crew for the Opening Ceremonies, Basketball and Wheelchair Basketball, but it was obvious that there was gender disparity” said Vermeulen. “There were so few women working on the remote and even fewer as techs”.
Graham, who has been production assistant on a wide variety of sports productions including during the World Junior Hockey Championship, said, “We have such talented women within the Rams Network executive team and the RTA School of Media, so we thought ‘why not try taking advantage of this and do something special?’”
They approached the other two other female network executives, second-year sports media student Maria Papadakis and second-year media production student Keerthika Uthayakumar, to assist in the preparation of the Take-Over.
“This event is a sign to each and every woman that they are as capable as any man in the industry, and the standards shouldn’t be different,” said Uthayakumar.
Papadakis said she felt that men had done it all for so long that it was time to make a change.
“I believe that there is no difference [in] what each gender can do because women are just as capable to produce, direct, or technical lead a broadcast as men” she said.
Sports media is a predominantly male-dominated industry. Last year, in the Rams Network’s inaugural season, Papadakis was the only female member of the production team.
Uthayakumar says she hopes the Take-Over will lead to a more balanced sports media landscape.
“Not where we have to have an all-female broadcast,” she said. “Instead it becomes more expected and common to integrate females in key and critical roles on the broadcasts on a regular basis.”
The game is at 7:30 p.m. The broadcast will air live on Rogers TV cable and SuperSports Pak, and will also be streamed through the OUA.tv.
The Take-Over has begun.
*Editor’s Note: In a previous version of this article, it was incorrectly stated that Erin Graham was an assistant director during her time with the World Junior Hockey Championship. This error has been corrected.*